I’ve noticed something lately, and it bothers me a bit. There’s a widespread acceptance — and even encouragement — to talk about how you can’t tolerate your own children for extended periods of time.
This is my 12th year of homeschooling my children, and I’ve grown used to hearing non-homeschooling parents tell me, “Oh, I don’t have the patience to homeschool my kids!” I’ve stopped trying to convince people that they do, indeed, have that kind of patience because it might very well be true. You can have all the love for your children in the world, but you also might not be called to homeschool them. You might not be able to juggle it all. I remember when one of my good friends had four children and started planning for baby number five when she realized that she wasn’t going to be able to continue homeschooling. At first, mainly because it was the middle of the school year, she placed her children in public schools. Later, they all wound up attending various Catholic schools. They were no less serious about their children’s education than Nathan and I are, and they work hard to be sure each of their children’s educational needs are met in the method that best fits that child. They made great sacrifices to put all of their children in the top-notch schools they attend, and their current youngest — who is number seven! — has just started a preschool program a few days each week.
So, it’s become clear to me that homeschooling is not for everyone, though I still believe that there are more parents who are capable than who give themselves credit for it.
But this isn’t the kind of comment that is really disturbing me lately. What bothers me are the comments I’m hearing from parents about spending time with their children. I always hear it as Summer approaches, when parents start complaining that their children will be home ALL. THE. TIME! Many exasperated parents have to find activities to occupy their kids while they work, and I can understand that this can be difficult to do. But it seems to have escalated into outright complaints about the children just being around so very much.
For example, let me tell you what happened the other day when I went to Kroger. The public schools in our area have been closed since last Tuesday because of snow, ice, and dangerous wind chills. This hasn’t affected us as homeschoolers, though. Friday morning, I went out to run errands before the next round of snow hit us on Saturday. My 16 year-old wanted to buy a new charging cable for her Kindle. We shopped around at Best Buy and found what she wanted, but if we purchased it with a gift card purchased at Kroger, I’d get points towards fuel discounts. Therefore, we went to Kroger for the gift card. While I was there, I wanted to buy some wine that I used in steak marinades. I left my girls by the gift card rack and called over my shoulder, “When you find what you want, I’ll be in the wine aisle!”
A woman was walking near me as I said this and laughed, “Yes! With them being out of school all week with all the snow days, get two bottles!”
I didn’t want to be rude, so I simply said, “They’re with me all the time. Besides, I’m getting wine for cooking, anyway.”
But I couldn’t shake the annoyance I felt that I ought to be put out that my kids were home all day.
When did this become a thing? When did it become not only popular or common, but expected that parents complain about having their children around them? Even family vacations at resorts are pitched as having activities for everyone in the family, but aren’t meant as “activities you do together” as much as “activities so you don’t have to be together”. There are activities for kids, pre-teens, teens, and adults — everyone with their own niche so they don’t have to spend more time than is necessary being together. Moms are encouraged to book spa time while the kids are at crafts and Dad is golfing.
But spend time together on vacation? It’s not the kind of thing you see often enough any more.
When did it get this way? Has our culture become so selfish that we can’t stand the thought of even spending timeDur with the 2-3 children it’s socially acceptable to have, let alone open our hearts and homes to a large family? Are we so self-centered that we don’t even want to take advantage of the extra time of a few snow days to love on our kids? Does no one have time for their own children any more? Are we too busy worshipping at the Altar of the Idol of Self to bother showing them love?
And you can’t say you’re just kidding about it. You can’t say you love your kids and only tear them down to others, especially when you do it right in front of them. That’s not how it works. If you love them, you don’t complain about “having” to spend an extra week with them because school’s snowed out all week.
No wonder teen suicide is so high. From the comments I see and hear about children, they’re nothing but a burden to the parents who had them. If we can’t show our kids how much we love them, how can we expect them to learn to love anyone, including themselves?
Instead of acting as though your children are a burden to you, instead of teasing about how you can’t wait to be rid of them again, why not spend time as a family doing something fun? Are you home from work because of the snow this week? Go out and build a snowman or a snow fort with your kids. Trek up the hill and ride the toboggan a few times. Play board games if it’s too cold to go out. Watch an old movie together.
On your family vacation, don’t fill your schedule with individual activies that keep you separate! Find something you can do together: hike, run, go on walks, play cards and board games. Look for local stuff to check out together. Read a book together — yes, even out loud, and yes, even to teens. Talk to each other and see what’s going on in your lives when you’re away from each other. Ask what your kids want to do, where they want to be in life in five years. Go play kickball together, or frisbee or soccer.
Find ways to show your kids that you love them, that you appreciate them, that you enjoy their company. When you talk about them, build them up. Don’t talk about them negatively to other people. And if you need advice on what to do about them because you’re having problems, go to someone you trust — someone who also loves your kids — for advice. Don’t air dirty laundry about them in public. When people meet your children for the first time, their expectation should be that they’re about to meet someone wonderful.
I’ve talked before about speaking about your spouse to others in positive terms. Your children deserve nothing less.